Talking about September 11 with Children

By Chris B. Fri, September 9, 2016

The anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks is a time for reflection, but it’s also a time for conversation. The generation of children that can remember the attack is now having children of their own. How do we share information about September 11 without confusing or frightening our children unnecessarily?

Here are some simple approaches for discussing September 11:

  • Listen! If children are curious about September 11, they’ll ask. Children will let you know if they want to know more about these events or not. Some children may not yet be ready to talk about it, and that’s okay, too. If they’re not ready, it’s best to not force the information on them.
     
  • If your child is open to talking about the attacks, don’t avoid the difficult conversations. No one wants to cause undue anxiety in children, but children are savvy; they often know when they’re being told half-truths. This can lead to frustrations for both children and their caregivers. Telling the truth also means that it’s okay to admit when you don’t know all the answers.
     
  • Admitting that you're unsure of all the facts may be a way to explore the history of the attacks together and learn as a family. For example, browse some our Remembering September 11 Explore Topic and see if there's a title you may want to read together. With pre-K and young children, you may want to read about the community helpers that are our emergency responders. You can also find appropriate books for children in elementary school and books for middle schoolers. We have more in-depth selections available for teens and adults as well.
     
  • Above all else, emphasize hope. The September 11 attacks were a terrible event, but in the aftermath our country came together in unity and support for New York City and the other locations impacted. We can also remember and honor the victims of September 11. Compassion, tolerance, and acceptance are the antithesis of what the terrorists believed in. By teaching these values, we can help ensure that such an event will not happen again.

For more information and more suggestions on this topic, visit the 9/11 Memorial website.  

 

9/11 Tribute in Lights by Chris Schiffner.  Used under CC BY-SA 3.0.  Photo cropped by FLP Staff.  

9/11 Tribute in Lights by Chris Schiffner
9/11 Tribute in Lights by Chris Schiffner

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